Low cholesterol increases cancer risk

Part 4: Cholesterol-lowering drugs

Not surprisingly, there have been several reviews of the cholesterol-cancer connection.

This is of greater concern in cases where cholesterol has been lowered artificially with drug treatment as, in an increasingly litigious society, the person administering the drugs could be blamed and sued for causing the cancer.

Drs T.B. Newman and S.B. Hulley of the School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, reviewed the findings and implications of studies of cancer and cholesterol-lowering drugs in trials involving both rodents and humans, and list the drugs and types of tumour found. They note in their review that 'all members of the two most popular classes of lipid-lowering drugs (the fibrates and the statins) cause cancer in rodents, in some cases at levels of animal exposure close to those prescribed for humans.'

But they add that 'Evidence of carcinogenicity [cancer-causing properties] of lipid-lowering drugs from clinical trials in humans is inconclusive because of inconsistent results and insufficient duration of follow up.'[1] Because the evidence here is sketchy, Newman and Hulley conclude that longer term surveillance needs to be carried out over the next few decades; in the meantime:

'the results of experiments in animals and humans suggest that lipid-lowering drug treatment, especially with the fibrates and statins, should be avoided except in patients at high short-term risk of coronary heart disease.'
You might like to consider this: while this surveillance is conducted, anyone taking cholesterol-lowering drugs is effectively being used as a guinea pig in an uncontrolled trial in which a likely outcome is an increased risk of cancer.


1. Newman TB, Hulley SB. Carcinogenicity of lipid-lowering drugs. JAMA 1996; 275: 55-60.

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Last updated: December 9, 2011